Al Jazeera’s Instagram platform, @AlJazeeraEnglish, had a breakout year, driving record growth and engagement, covering the news and capturing all facets of life in 2020. Through high quality photos, stories, social cards and posts, we provided a global overview of current affairs, from the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani to Covid-19 outbreaks, pandemic lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter protests that fanned across the US; from pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and political chaos in the UK, Venezuela and Washington to wildfires in the Amazon, freak accidents and often deadly plight of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. And, as the year drew to a close, the US elections culminated with President Donald Trump’s loss of the White House to the opponent he feared most — Joseph R. Biden. Through it all, we were there, up close, and as always, with an editorial eye that elevated the voices of the voiceless.
Our strategy was simple: to deliver every story within breaking news cycles. We implemented this through second-to-none photo curation, IG posts and stories. @AlJazeeraEnglish succeeded as few others have in covering the globe — from war zone reportage to the impact of global climate change and political machinations, twists and turns. We worked tirelessly to report on the COVID-19 pandemic that enveloped more countries by far than the world wars before it. It was never easy—but AJE’s Instagram platform ran the gamut, from unfathomable loss to unexpected rays of hope.. and everything in between.
In a year dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Al Jazeera English’s Instagram platform, @AlJazeeraEnglish, drove quality coverage of the news. We worked tirelessly to cover all aspects of the pandemic, from lockdowns to breakthroughs, tragedy and loss — but also the hope that gave much needed rest from a relentless – and grim – daily news cycle. And, as the pandemic raged, we also covered the rest of the world.
Curated posts and branded assets
We did this through carefully curated single-image posts, carousels, videos (including IGTVs), lives, and branded social cards to break down information in an easily accessible way. We used these assets to generate greater impact and to invite conversation. Our viewers’ responses read like a kind of cardiograph that mapped the pandemic as it unfolded in every country and continent. We highlighted the full range of life experience – from tragedies, failures and successes the heroism of those who gave us hope.
We engaged in and cross-pollinated conversations with our audiences, setting the stage for the sharing of information and perspectives with our editorial team and fellow users. And, as always, we kept an editorial eye out for those too beaten down by circumstance to be able to tell their own stories. Indeed, listening to our users’ thoughts, questions and suggestions invariably led to their implementation into subsequent posts and generated story ideas that were not on our radar.
Bernard Smith in Nagorno-Karabakh
We grew our audience while driving referrals to the Al Jazeera English website and made excellent use of Al Jazeera English’s broadcast correspondents – as was the case with the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, where TV Correspondent Bernard Smith filed highly engaging real-time stories from the field. At the height of the conflict, we asked our audiences to tell us what they wanted to know, and parlayed those questions to Bernard Smith who responded in his Instagram stories.
Linah Alsaafin meets Salwa
And in another, very personal depiction of war, our audiences tuned into the viral video, posted by multiple networks, of Salwa — the Syrian toddler whose father had taught her to laugh at the nearby sound of exploding bombs, simply so she might escape the trauma wrought by the bombings. AJE Instagram also posted the video, but took it a step further, dispatching our digital correspondent, Linah Alsaafin, to meet Salwa and her family after their successful escape to Turkey. Here’s Lina with Salwa on our AJE Instagram platform, and the article it inspired on our website.
And that about sums up our approach at Al Jazeera – we cover the news, but always from a human angle.
Milestones in 2020
We started off with 1.1 million followers in January 2020 and ended the year with 1.85 million followers, growing our platform organically by 63% in a year. We increased our native content on the IG feed and stories by almost 70% compared to 2019. Our coverage of breaking news sparked online conversation and increased overall engagement, video views and reach, with followers fueling a 103% increase in the number of user referrals from our platform to the www.aljazeera.com website.
Bridging the Gender Gap
In addition to publishing real-time news and current affairs, our platform has been steadily closing the audience gender gap. In January 2020, our male to female ratio of users was 72%-28%. Today - one year later - that ratio has shifted to 66%-34%.